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The Shocking Results
of Secret Sin
The Story of Achan from Joshua 4

by Robert L. Cobb
-Administrator, News For Christians Dot Com

Illustration:  In a conservative southern church, the pastor's wife found pornography on her husband's computer.  After confronting him with the evidence, he admitted downloading the images off the internet, even using the computer in his study which was located in the church itself.  Somehow he had separated his ongoing sexual sin from his responsibilities and duties as a man of God.

Illustration:  In an August 2000 poll conducted by Christianity Today on internet pornography, 33% of active ministers admitted having visited porn sites.  Over half of those ministers said that they had visited those sites more than once.  A total of 18 percent of clergy said they visit sexually explicit Web sites between a couple of times a month and more than once a week.  This poll includes many liberal and 'mainstream' ministers, but it would be very naive to think that porn was not a problem for some bible-believing ministers.

Illustration: In another bible-believing church not far from my home, a Christian businessman sought investment capital from other Christian individuals and businesses.  He promised to invest the money in new Christian enterprises and promised a high rate of return on their money.  Alas, however, there was no new enterprise, and there was no return on their money.  He had embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from his fellow Christians.  He was charged by civil authorities and jailed.  The unbelieving world had another excuse to demean biblical Christianity.

Illustration: A nice Christian family joined the church by letter from another city.  Brad and Susan had four wonderful little boys ranging in age from two years up to ten years.  Susan had a beautiful voice and sang specials in the church.  Brad was a bible teacher and had taught sunday school at their former church.  But Brad and Susan had a terrible secret.  He had a terrible temper that caused him to abuse Susan both physically and emotionally.  No one in the church had any idea until she took her boys and left to return to her hometown.  Brad followed her back and tried to reconcile with her.  But his secret was now public and there was no turning back.

I speak tonight on SECRET SIN.   Proverbs 28:13 says. "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy."   The word "covereth" means to hide or conceal.  The word "prosper"  means to advance, succeed, make progress.  There are professing Christians in almost every church who believe that they are prospering in spite of hidden, secret sins; they have convinced themselves that their sin is condoned by God.  But there is no real success when you carry the baggage of secret sin in your life. 

There is a bible story which proves this truth.  I direct you to one of the saddest and sternest passages anywhere in the bible, Joshua chapter seven.

1 ¶ But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel.
4  So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai.
5  And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men: for they chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim, and smote them in the going down: wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water.
6 ¶ And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads.
10 ¶ And the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?
11  Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff.
16 ¶ So Joshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken:
17  And he brought the family of Judah; and he took the family of the Zarhites: and he brought the family of the Zarhites man by man; and Zabdi was taken:
18  And he brought his household man by man; and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken.
19  And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me.
20  And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done:
21  When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.
22  So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent; and, behold, it was hid in his tent, and the silver under it.
23  And they took them out of the midst of the tent, and brought them unto Joshua, and unto all the children of Israel, and laid them out before the LORD.
24  And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor.
25  And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.
26  And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day.
This is a very disturbing story for most of us.  It would seem to our modern minds that God was too hard on Achan.  The religious liberal  may say that the punishment did not fit the crime.  But verse 26 seems to suggest that God approved of the punishment of Achan.  But what about his family?  Surely his children were innocent!  And his animals?  Why execute his animals?  The story of Achan and his secret sin reveals some pertinent truths for Christians in this age of grace.  As we examine the story, let us realize the seriousness of secret sins in our lives.

As a background, look at the meaning of the names of Achan's family tree:

Achan = "troubler"     a stealing generation
Carmi = "my vineyard"    a selfish generation
Zabdi = "endowment"       a supplied generation
Zerah or Zarah = "rising"   a successful generation
Notice the downward progression with each generation looking all the way back to Achan's great-grandfather.  Zerah's life had been a success; but his son Zabdi was supplied by Zerah's riches.  Achan's father's name, Carmi, denotes selfishness, bringing us to Achan himself, the troubler. Achan paid for his secret sin with his life and the life of his family. 

I.   Achan Lost the Fight with his People
...for Achan...took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel.....  For the children of Israel, the thrill of victory was so quickly replaced with the agony of defeat. The victory at Jericho had seemed like a dream.  Surely Ai would be just a minor engagement. But there can be no victory without the blessings of God.  The Jericho campaign was directed by God Himself;  Ai was fought solely in the flesh.  There is a great lesson for the Christian life.  One minute we can be living in victory—the next in defeat.  The distance between victory and a great defeat is only one step, a step away from God and toward the flesh.

Sadly, the defeat of the Israelites could be traced back to the sin of one man.  God had placed a ban on all items of value belonging to the inhabitants of Jericho.  This was done for the good of the Israelites and for the glory of God.  As God provided for their every need, they had no reason to desire the worldly articles of Jericho.  Also, God did not want the heathen to be able to say that Israel had gotten rich because of their enemies.  Achan's sin was greater than he could understand.  It brought shame and reproach on Israel and dishonor to God.  But God had brought the defeat of Achan's people because of Achan's sin.  Our secret sins are always greater than we think.  We cause defeat in the lives of our family members, our church, and the cause of Christ.  Achan never believed his sin would result in such a humiliating defeat. 

II.    Achan Lost the Fortune that He Gained.
...When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my  tent, and the silver under it.Achan was a citizen-soldier.  God had given specific instructions to the army of Israel that they were not to take of the "accursed things' of Jericho.  Achan confessed that he "coveted them, and took them."  To covet means to desire strongly with the inner man,  to delight in.  Christians today delight in worldly things that God has placed off limits.  The married man who gets involved with another woman is just one example.  Another can be found in the questionable viewing of movies, internet content, and music.  Christians today can become involved in many activities that are secret from their church family and their immediate family.  Our culture has provided that secrecy in many areas, and many believers succumb to those temptations.

The Babylonish garment is of special interest.  History tells us that these types of garments were embroidered and interwoven with pictures and images.  These clothes were usually purple or scarlet in color and denoted wealth and power.  This garment represents the worldliness of the believer.  The gold and silver also represent the temporal power of the world system.  The important thought here is that all that Achan tried to accumulate outside of the will of God was lost in the end.  Those who hide their sin and continue to delight in it will one day lose all the benefits gained by that sin.  "Be not deceived. God is not mocked; Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."

III.  Achan Lost the Fullness of his Inheritance
Joshua 11:23  So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD said unto Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. And the land rested from war. After the battles to take possession of the promised land, Joshua presented the children of Israel with their piece of that land, according to their tribes.  Achan would have had a part of this wonderful land that flowed with milk and honey.  His secret sin, however, precluded him from ever taking his place in occupying the land.

How many Christians have sold their inheritance for moments of passion or pleasure?  Achan had no idea when he picked up the accursed items of Jericho that he would completely lose his future blessings.  No doubt he looked forward with great anticipation to having his own land and home in this beautiful and productive land.  But that terrible sin, committed on the spur of the moment, and then hidden from all except God, destroyed Achan's chance at a happy life.  The Apostle John reminds us,Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.  (2 John 1:8) Each Christian has the potential for a full reward, and only sin and disobedience can stop us from receiving that reward.  Secret sins are never worth the cost!

IV.   Achan Lost the Family of his Heart
And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan...and his sons, and his daughters...and all that he had...And all   Israel stoned him with stones...  Probably the most painful aspect of this story is the fact that Achan's sin condemned his family as well as himself.  What a terrible price to pay!  What a terrible lesson to learn!  There are those that would foolishly charge God with error in his severe judgment.  But the fact is that our sins do affect others.    No Christian would ever set out with a goal of destroying his family, but it happens every day.  A father leaves his wife for another woman.  The teenage boy rebels against both parents in his anger at being betrayed by his father.  The father had taught him life lessons, had modeled godly behavior before him all of his life.  Now he turns his back on his wife and son.  That father can not honestly say, "Son, it's not about you."  Likely, that son is lost to the things of God.  The father has fallen and possibly brought his son down with him.

Do not blame God for harshly judging Achan and his family.  He tried and condemned himself.  He sentenced himself.  And his family also.  (Numbers 14:18)  The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the  children unto the third and fourth generation.

V.  Achan Lost the Fulfillment of his Purpose
God created Achan for a purpose.  God did not cause Achan to sin; He only recorded his choice to sin.  God is not willing that the unsaved die without Christ and go to Hell.  Yet He must allow man to make his choices.  Every human being is born with a purpose and mission in life.  We are to glorify God and serve him.  Yet every human who dies lost has missed fulfilling his life's purpose.  Every backslider who commits the sin unto death, dies with an unfulfilled purpose in life.

Achan's name means "troubler."  But he did not have to die in the way that he did.  God could have fulfilled His purpose in Achan's name by allowing him to be such a good soldier that he "troubled" the enemy at every point.  God desired that Achan would take his place among his people, that he would occupy his place and give honor to God.  But Achan's sin had too great of a hold on him.  He just could not let it go!

Charles Spurgeon said in a message,  "You say that you can handle your secret sins, that there is no one hurt by them. But you may as well ask the lion to let you put your head into his mouth. You cannot regulate his jaws: neither can you regulate sin. Once done, you cannot tell when you will be destroyed. You may put your head in and out a great many times; but one of these days it will be a costly venture. "

Another Spurgeon illustration:, Secret sin is like a pet dog.  When you open the door of your house, he goes out into the street.  You can try to chase him down and quiet him, but he barks and tells your business.

Christian friend, go not continue to hide your sin.  Don't harbor that sin, buried deep in the tent floor of your heart.  It will affect your family, your home, your spiritual inheritance,  and your purpose in life.  There is no sin worthy of separating us from our Father.  It is not necessary to confess your secret sins to everyone, for it is none of their business.  Do business with God.  Repent and let God restore you to fellowship.

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